2012-13 NCAA Basketball Preview: UNLV


UNLV Basketball

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UNLV comes into this season as one of my favorite teams. Head coach Dave Rice stepped in his first year last season and led the Runnin’ Rebels to a 26-9 record and a birth to the NCAA Tournament. What he also did his first year, was my favorite part of all. He sped the game up. I love up-tempo teams that can get up and down the floor in less than five seconds. They’re the most fun to watch, and provide the most action in the smallest amount of time. Let’s get to the roster of this Elite Eight-bound team.

When you consider the fact that this team lost two of its best players over the offseason, and with them they couldn’t even make it to the field of 64 last year, how is it possible that I see this team making a lot of noise in March this season? Look at their recruiting class. The Rebels lose Chace Stanback, but gain Anthony Bennett, ESPN’s No. 7 recruit. The Rebels also lose a great scoring guard in Oscar Bellfield, but gain 6’5 scoring guard Katin Reinhardt. Whatever the Rebels lose from last season, they replace them this year with a version that should at least step in and do as good a job as their predecessor. Another great freshman addition in Savon Goodman will also play valuable minutes. Why did the power forward choose UNLV? Their up-tempo style of play. Vegas however didn’t only recruit great high school players this offseason. They added a former top 10 overall recruit in Khem Birch, coming from Pittsburgh via transfer.

What Birch brings is skill and size. He’ll be eligible in December, which is when this team will really start to show its true colors. The Rebels ultimately got Birch because he’s good friends with Bennett, who committed to UNLV this past offseason. Birch is a 6’9 power forward that showed his potential in a very small sample size at Pittsburgh last season. In his first career start, Birch put up 15 points with 10 rebounds and in his next game, totaled eight points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. Once Birch, Bennett and Mike Moser, UNLV’s best player who we haven’t even mentioned yet, get together in the frontcourt, look out America.

Moser is a 6’8 power forward who is a former transfer from UCLA. Just imagine that Bruins team with Moser this year if they had kept him. They would be the favorite this year, without a doubt. What Moser brings to the table for the Runnin’ Rebels is just about everything you can ask from a 6’8 player. He averaged a double-double last season, shot 78 percent from the foul line, and plays great defense. He’s not an enormous 6’8 forward that can’t get up and down the floor. This should be already assumed considering he plays for UNLV, but that’s beside the point. He led the Mountain West Conference in steals last year. He’s that quick for his size. Moser was a first team all-conference player last year, and supposedly has worked hard again in the offseason. Expect another all-conference honor for Moser, and if he can successfully teach Birch and Bennett the ropes down low, UNLV winning the national championship shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody.  Read more…

Muhammad chooses UCLA, is it the shoes?

Shabazz Muhammad Bishop GormanThere is a problem with college basketball recruiting and Shabazz Muhammad could be the perfect example. Recently choosing UCLA over Kentucky and his hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, many have blasted the high school student for signing with UCLA because of their sponsorship with Adidas.

Some may remember the famous Nike commercial and the question “is it the shoes?” While it might not be the shoes per say, it’s the money that could go along with it when/and if he transitions to the NBA.

Things like this happen all the time in college basketball.  According to many, Anthony Davis the most recent MVP of the National Championship and now potential number one pick, signed with the Kentucky Wildcats because of their affiliation with Nike. Don’t kid yourself, he will have a Nike shoe contract before his name is announced at the 2012 NBA Draft.

There are kids every year that commit to a school based on sponsorship and that trend will continue to happen unless someone puts a stop to it.

What ever happened to playing for a team that you are most passionate about?

For Muhammad, he bites the hand that feeds him as he leaves Las Vegas to attend UCLA instead of UNLV.

The 6’5 senior may not realize the potential not only the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have, but also the potential and backing the city Las Vegas could have offered him.

Shabazz Muhammad is a senior at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, NV and was the number one overall player ranked by Rivals.com, Prepstars.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.

To be a student at Bishop Gorman, a Roman Catholic College Preparatory High School in the Diocese of Las Vegas, is considered a privilege. Tuition is expensive. Last reported at $12,500 a year. This does not include uniforms, books and other items a student pays for. Walking down the halls you are surrounded with peers that are intelligent and have the potential of being the next president. Then again, there are also the students that have no right to be there and can thank their parents for pushing them to succeed. As a former student at Bishop Gorman, I know first-hand that sometimes you can become blinded of what else is out there while living in the “Gorman world.”

UNLV has a potential top-10 nationally ranked team in 2012 and just landed Findlay Prep star and top recruit Anthony Bennett in addition to a compelling starting team including USC transfer Bryce Jones, Pitt transfer Khem Birch and returning starters Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser. The atmosphere in Las Vegas is starting to resemble the exciting and amazing atmosphere that once graced the streets of Vegas in the late 80’s and 90’s.

When UNLV won the National Championship in 1990 it was a scene of Rebel Red. The entire valley had “Rebel Fever” and that special atmosphere is starting to make a comeback. We rallied around No. 1 pick of the NBA draft Larry Johnson and love Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon still to this day. We treat any of them with respect and God-like celebrities.

While Muhammad’s decision could have been based on playing time as UNLV’s upcoming roster far outdoes the PAC-12 UCLA roster, speculation says it’s all about the shoes or the money he will potentially earn when he goes pro. We will never know if his choice was actually influenced by Adidas but by not selecting UNLV he may have lost a number of fans.

GB Bongiovanni can be contacted on Twitter @GBBongiovanni